Previewing the standout models for 2017
It’s that time of the year once again when all the world’s automakers attend their debutante balls and start revving their engines. It’s new car season and this year we have everything from a mega-advanced Mercedes sedan to a targa-topped Miata, Ford supercar, luxury crossovers, sexy Swede, plug-ins, rebirth of the Lincoln Continental and a hot Honda pickup with sporty surprises between. Here’s your guide to all you’ll want to drive:
Mazda MX-5 Miata RF. I adore the Miata’s elegant manual cloth top, but the new RF has a hard top for touring, and with the flip of a switch, converts into an open roof targa. It can even perform this trick at slow speeds. Fastback styling gets pulses quickening — as does a choice of SKYACTIV 1.5- or 2.0-liter gasoline engines, the latter delivering 155 horsepower. Interiors can be upholstered in Nappa leather, but are still models of simplicity. The RF should please Miata enthusiasts while enticing new fans. Base price: $31,555.
GMC Acadia. Moving to smaller architecture, Acadia is completely restyled while shedding 700 lbs. Engines include a 310 horsepower V6 and 194 horsepower Turbo-4 delivering 22/28-MPG city/hwy. Denali trim is joined by a new All Terrain edition. Three rows of seats hold up to 7 passengers in a more sumptuous interior. Standard rear seat alert reminds parents to grab their children and prevent heat-related deaths. It’s a fancier, more urban-friendly version of its former self. Base price: $29,070.
Mercedes-Benz E-Class. The world’s most advanced sedan sports dramatic curves, broad shoulders and “stardust effect” LED taillamps. Interiors harbor twin screens for instruments and infotainment. Natural Grain Ash wood, contrasting leather, heated armrests and 64-hue ambient lighting add panache. A 241 horsepower 2.0-liter turbo-four delivers pace; a dynamic air suspension system adds grace. The Drive Pilot system can automatically follow traffic, assist in steering around corners and change lanes automatically. Base price: $52,150.
Ford GT. Crowds are already forming for Ford’s sleek new supercar. Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Ford GT’s 1-2-3 wins during the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans race, this version employs a mid-mounted 600 horse twin-turbo V6 engine, carbon fiber passenger cell and active aerodynamics to enhance track performance. Exotic features include a reconfigurable digital instrument panel, seven-speed dual-clutch transaxle, carbon-ceramic brakes, upward-swinging doors and aircraft-inspired fuselage with air pass-throughs in the rear fenders. Passengers sit in fixed seats, adjusting the pedals and steering column for comfort. You’re looking at the future of Ford performance. Base price: Est. $400,000.
Chevrolet Bolt EV. One year after the concept’s debut in Detroit, Chevrolet beats Tesla to offering an affordable electric car with more than 238 miles all-electric range. The Bolt charges for 90 miles of driving in 30 minutes. Drivers will enjoy an electric car rush given 200 horsepower and 266 lb.-ft. of torque. Tech includes a rear camera mirror, remote starting, smartphone-managed charging, navigation, and cabin pre-conditioning (warm or cool before entering). Connect iThings via 4G LTE Wi-Fi. Even better, it’s built in Michigan. Base price: $37,495 (before $7,500 federal tax credit).
Infiniti Q60 Coupe. Like street sex, the third-generation Infiniti coupe is raw and elative. Edgy creases and crevices reflect Infiniti’s expressive design language — especially fetching over 19-in. alloys and glistening with LED headlights. Slide inside to caress contrast-stitched dashboard and door covering. Bluetooth, RearView Monitor, Bose Performance Series Audio and sport seats lure you in. Step into the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that delivers 208 horsepower or choose the 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 that produces 300 horsepower in 3.0t Premium trim or a boisterous 400 horsepower in the Red Sport 400 edition. Select rear- or all-wheel-drive. Drive one and get busy. Base price: $38,950.
Honda Ridgeline. Honda’s crossover-based pickup goes from homely to handsome as designers rebuff origami styling for streamlined normalcy. The bed has its own audio system, power outlet, under-floor trunk with drain for iced beverages and a tailgate that swings and folds. Flip-up rear seat allow cross-loading cargo. A standard 280 horsepower V6 engine easily tows a couple of jet skis. Safety is enhanced by available Collision Mitigation Braking, Lane Keep Assist, Adaptive Cruise Control and LaneWatch camera. Keep haulin’! Base price: $29,475.
Volvo S90. China’s Geely may own Volvo, but the automaker’s latest sedan exhibits Swedish design ethos with simple, but elegant forms. Styling includes signature Thor’s Hammer LED headlamps, concave grille from the classic P1800 and adaptive lighting that adjusts for oncoming traffic. Interiors indulge in swaths of soft leather, exuberantly grained planks of wood, and 9.3-in. tablet-like touchscreen. Powertrain choices include a supercharged and turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that delivers 316 horsepower and 25-MPG highway or a “Twin Engine” plug-in hybrid delivering 410 horsepower. Being a Volvo, the S90 boasts safety tech like Adaptive Cruise Control, Pilot Assist semi-autonomous drive feature and an IIHS Top Pick+ rating. Base price: $46,950.
Nissan Sentra SR Turbo. An engine doesn’t make the car, but it gives it swagger. Take the Sentra for example. Nissan took the milk toast sedan, shoved the Juke’s 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine under the hood, stiffened the suspension, quickened the steering and sported out the exterior with 17-in. wheels. Fully stoked drivers enjoy 188 horses through either a 6-speed manual or Xtronic continuously-variable transmission. Safety tech includes a rear camera, bind spot warning and rear cross traffic alert. Crank the Bose audio, spread heated leather seats and zip out! Base price: $21,990 (for either transmission).
Toyota Prius Prime. Toyota confronts Tesla with a plug-in Prius that can travel up to 25 miles on electricity, achieving 133-MPGe. On gasoline, the sleek batmobile achieves 55/53-MPG city/hwy. Ultra-low profile LED headlights and sleek body enable a 0.25 coefficient of drag. Enjoy driving more with an independent rear suspension and 1.8-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder engine that contributes to a combined 121 horsepower hybrid system output. A head-up display, wireless phone charging and touchscreen challenge the auto from Silicon Valley. Safety is enhanced by pedestrian detection, departure warning, radar cruise control and crash mitigation systems. Bitch can even park herself! Base price: $27,100.
Lincoln Continental. Continental returns with styling only a mother could love, but it certainly has presence. Bold exterior styling sports the brand’s new grille and power opening/closing doors with e-latch handles hidden in window trim. Interior luxury rivals the classic era with rich leather, genuine wood or aluminum and stretch-out rear legroom, but greets today with Pedestrian Detection radar and adaptive cruise control that can creep the car through traffic. Passengers luxuriate in 30-way adjustable heated, cooled, and massaging seats. A twin-turbo 3.0-liter V6 delivers 400 horsepower to torque-vectoring AWD. Exquisite. Base price: $44,560.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 4, 2016.